- The opening track "Lift" is a microcosm of Katie Gately's debut album, Color. It apparently involves 421 separate layers of audio; Gately, an LA-based graduate of the USC School Of Cinematic Arts, describes it as "every childish sonic instinct I've ever had combined." There's a catchy bassline in there somewhere, but you're mostly distracted by the raging storm of details. There's Gately's voice, accompanied by "doo"-ing and "aah"-ing versions of itself, honking saxophones, whizzing fireworks, heavily processed percussion and a hail of other unidentifiable sounds. Every eight bars something new jostles into frame. The song lasts four minutes, and by the end you're exhausted.
But wait: there's a whole album still to get through. Gately's previous releases, for Public Information and FatCat, applied equally madcap processing to similar materials but had a keener sense of space. Color is more pop—most tracks tip a nod to verse-chorus structure—but it's also completely overloaded with ideas. When the seven-minute "Sift" launches into yet another explosive climax four and a half minutes in, it feels like the thing might never end.
The cores of Gately's songs are sometimes audible in the din, but they're rarely appealing. Some, like "Tuck," could be deranged cousins of Lady Gaga's stodgy Euro-pop. There's a twee-gothic, Tim Burton-esque flavour to the likes of "Rive," with its baroque pianos and spidery woodwind lines.
The album takes on a sterner tone towards the end, where it finds a degree of control. "Frisk" toggles more purposefully between calm and chaotic overload, and nine-minute closer "Color" uncoils with the patience of Gately's earlier work. The rest of the album suffers from a condition shared by a few Tri Angle artists: chronic maximalism. It's a sickness of the digital production era, in which endless duplication and layering is encouraged. Gately describes her method as a question: "How much can I add before it just sounds too crazy. What's the most obnoxious thing I can make the song do?" With Color, she's overshot.